ROSELAND — Oroki Rice wants women that are hurting in her community to know: You have a safe place in Roseland.
The founder of Sisters on a Journey said that includes everyone from mothers who have lost children to violence to women who simply need someone to talk to.
Rice, 62, founded the nonprofit in 1994 — and started holding a drumming and healing circle the third Sunday of each month two years later. The women meet in her home, which is on 109th Street near Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy.
The gatherings are less about the drumming and more about the connections being made and the healing that people feel, she said.
“In my family we did support each other as women, and I’m finding there are a lot of women who have never had the opportunity to sit in a safe place with other women," Rice said. "A lot of women have been bruised and injured, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally in relationships with [other] women.”
The sessions are typically attended by about a dozen people, but she has had as many as 60 people at an event, she said.
The session usually begins with calling out to the ancestors, burning incense and pouring libation — an African ritual where someone makes an offering to a god or spirit, or to remember a loved one who has passed away. Rice invites a guest speaker each month so the women listen, talk, drum and eat.
The drumming is part of an African tradition, Rice said.
“Our people, African people, and even natives of this land used the drum as a speaking tool, as a connection tool and it has carried on,” she said. Participants also use other percussion instruments such as bells and tambourines.
Cynthia Nia Henson, 66, who has known Rice for more than 25 years, has been with the organization since its inception.
“I’ve just had a good time being apart of this,” Henson said, who grew up in West Englewood and now lives in south suburban Riverdale.
She said the drumming and healing circle allows women the opportunity to share and tell their personal stories.
“I believe that in every community, people have been devastated by all the things that are happening daily, like the drive-bys, the killings,” Henson said.
“They need to connect to people," she said. "Some people have never had a situation where they can come and be with people and feel safe and talk about what’s going on in their lives, and so this forum has been available to the young and the old.”
But that’s not all Rice’s organization does, she said. The drumming circle is just for women and young girls, but the storytelling event is for men and women. The storytelling group meets every fourth Saturday of the month at the Quaker House, 5615 S. Woodlawn Ave.
There is also a monthly writing circle, but that’s strictly for women. It meets on the third Tuesday of the month and the current series is on soulmates. Past sessions have discussed painful issues, including abortion — which led some participants to reveal abortions they had but never shared with anyone, Rice said. There’s even a vision board party that alternates between Tuesdays and Saturdays.
All are welcome. Rice said that new people are always showing up, even from out of state because of Facebook and word-of-mouth.
“It is beautiful when we get people to come and expose things and a lot of people when they get finished say, 'I never told anyone that,'” Henson said.
A $10 donation is encouraged to those attending the drum circle.
More event details and contact information are available on Facebook.
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